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Micrometeorites

Exploring Micrometeorite Formation: The Soap Bubble Effect

When most micrometeorites enter Earth’s atmosphere at hyperspeed, fifty times the speed of a rifle bullet, they melt by frictional heat. During the subsequent deceleration, the temperature lowers and recrystallization occurs. To trigger crystallization in a molten rock, something must start it, a nucleus. This is usually some metal or other dense element. From there, crystallization grows in the amorphous (glass) melt, which is frequently seen in glass (V-type) micrometeorites. Like Photo #1. 

There is an analogy to this, which can be observed directly, in freezing soap bubbles. Crystallization is triggered by the snow crystals on the ground, and crystals start to grow in the still liquid water. In front of the crystalline border between the growing crystalline area and the still amorphous glass, small isolated “snow crystals” appear. If allowed to grow, these crystals may end up as individual crystal domains, which is a characteristic feature of many micrometeorites. In stripy barred olivine (BO-type) micrometeorites we usually see areas of different stripy orientation. These started to grow as isolated crystals in the original melt. Four of the glass micrometeorites in figure 1 have small isolated pyramidal crystals growing in the glass. The Atlas of Micrometeorites describes this phenomenon as The Soap Bubble Effect. 

On soap bubbles, the growth of the crystals is like on a two-dimensional surface. But how does this phenomenon translate for micrometeorites? Is it on the surface of the micrometeoroid, or also inside, in three dimensions? This has been an open question, until now. Today Jan Braly Kihle and I present the first documentation of this, a World première:

An Epiphany

NMM 2583 is a composite micrometeorite with both glass and crystalline features discovered and photographed by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle_Photo 2
Photo 2: NMM 2583 is a composite micrometeorite with both glass and crystalline features. Photo by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle. © Project Stardust, 2022.

Micrometeorite NMM 2583 (see Photo #2) is an icon which is known to many stardust fans. The photo has been printed in prestigious magazines and exhibited in art galleries. In fact, before we launched our debut fine art collection, several people contacted me because they wished to display this exotic micrometeorite in their home. 

Alternate view of NMM 2583 discovered and photographed by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle_Photo 6
Photo 3: Alternate view of NMM 2583. Photo by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle. © Project Stardust, 2022.

Measuring approximately 0.7 mm, NMM 2583 is a giant stone droplet from Space where the thick end is crystalline and the tail is composed of amorphous glass. The color is deep brown. In the black and white image from the scanning electron microscope (SEM, see Photo #4), we can see how crystallization has been initiated by small metal beads in the front, which then grew backwards. At one point, the temperature must have dropped below solidification, reaching the freezing point, and the long tail has remained glassy, only rounded by surface tension.

SEM image of Project Stardust composite micrometeorite NMM 2583 discovered and photographed by Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle_Photo 3
Photo 4: SEM image of Project Stardust micrometeorite NMM 2583. © Project Stardust, 2022.

With our new photo technique, Jan and I have a glimpse of the inside of the little Space rock. A small light source directly from behind shines through the translucent glass, making it possible for us to see small independent olivine crystals growing ahead of the major crystalline front. Not only on the surface but as a three-dimensional pattern inside the glass matrix (see Photos #5 and 6). This has never been documented before, and we are proud to share it with you. Enjoy!

Detail image of Project Stardust micrometeorite NMM 2583 discovered and photographed by Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle_Photo 4
Photo 5: Detail image of Project Stardust micrometeorite NMM 2583. Photo by Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle. © Project Stardust, 2022.
Detail image of Project Stardust micrometeorite NMM 2583 discovered and photographed by Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle_Photo 5
Photo 6: Detail image of Project Stardust micrometeorite NMM 2583. Photo by Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle. © Project Stardust, 2022.

By popular demand, the large hi-res color photo of the beautiful micrometeorite, NMM 2583, is now available as part of our debut limited edition fine art collection, so you can have stardust on your wall. 

Stay tuned for another blog article here at Project Stardust investigating the obvious follow-up question: How was did NMM 2583 form in the first place? So, hang on, more stardust discoveries are coming up soon!

As always, if you have a question or comment, please connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. We love reading and responding to your messages!

Yours truly,

Jon Larsen 

Artistic illustration of the formation of NMM 2583 discovered and photographed by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle_Photo 7
Photo 7: Artistic illustration of NMM 2583 descending to Earth. Photo by Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle. © Project Stardust, 2022.

Just in case you're new here!

Together we have amassed the world's most expansive collection of micrometeorites and we can't wait to share it with you.

Whether you're an expert in the field, an art collector with an appetite for treasures from space, or a budding stardust enthusiast, we hope you'll enjoy learning about our work.

Connect with us on social media to share the excitement of seeing new micrometeorites for the first time!

Jon Larsen & Jan Braly Kihle

We're so glad you're here!

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WINTER 2022 COLLECTION

Meet this season's micrometeorites

This season's collection features a variety of stunning micrometeorites. From mountainous cryptocrystalline turtlebacks and bewitching glass spherules to ultra rare giants. Available for a limited time only.

NMM 1448: V-TYPE

NMM 1448:  V-TYPE

Glass / Vitreous

Glass or vitreous type (V-type) micrometeorites each a temperature of up to 2000°C (3600°F) as they descend through the atmosphere..

These delicate, translucent spherules are difficult to find due to their lack of magnetism, since most of their metals evaporated during descent. 

NMM 1359:  CC-TYPE

Crypto-crystalline

Cryptocrystalline (CC-type) micrometeorites are composed of glassy particles with fine-grained crystallites that are too small to recognize as individual grains.

Many of these magnificent spherules feature metal beads and aerodynamic forms, while others have a "turtleback" shape with humps distributed evenly around the spherule.

NMM 1359:  CC-TYPE

NMM 500:  BO-TYPE

Barred Olivine

Barred olivine (BO-type) spherules are coarse-grained  micrometeorites made of the magnesium variety of the mineral olivine, forsterite, which is punctuated with small particles of magnetite.

The surface features striations that are formed when iron reacts with oxygen in the atmosphere. 

NMM 500:  BO-TYPE

NMM 1149:  PO-TYPE

Porphyritic Olivine

Porphyritic olivine (PO-type) micrometeorites are also made of forsterite, a type of olivine that is made of magnesium.

There are many morphological varieties of this type of micrometeorite; From evenly distributed small crystals, to crystals that increase in side, to extremely large or even possibly a single olivine crystal.

NMM 1149:  PO-TYPE

NMM 1271:  Sc-TYPE

Scoriaceous

When stardust does not reach a peak temperature of at least 1350°C (2500°F) during entry and deceleration, it barely melts. Volatile elements expand and escape in the form of gas bubbles, which results in a scoriaceous (SC-type) or vesicular micrometeorite.

Micrometeorites of this type are extremely difficult to find.

NMM 1271:  SC-TYPE

NMM 1271: G-, I-, CAT-typeS

Other Types

From G-types with dark silicate glass, I-types dominated by iron, and milky CAT spherules  enriched with calcium, aluminum, and titanium, to fossil, unmelted, and un-categorized micrometeorites.

There is no question that Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle's contributions have had a dramatic effect on the field.

NMM 1271:  G-/I-/CAT-TYPES

Jon and Jan are
EXCEPTIONAL ARTISTS AND SCIENTISTS. 

Michael Zolensky

NASA JOhnson Space Center

SEM Collection

COMING SOON

Never forget: YOU ARE SURROUNDED BY STARDUST, inside and out.

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FIREBALL: Visitors from Darker Worlds

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From directors Werner Herzog and Clive Oppenheimer, this remarkable journey across our planet and universe explores how meteorites, shooting stars, and deep impacts have awoken our wonder about other realms-and make us rethink our destinies.

Limited Edition

The Atlas

of Micrometeorites

Never before has it been possible to see stardust in such a large format with crisp details. The 500+ color images are made possible by a new photo technology developed for this project by the author and mineralogist Jan Braly Kihle. 

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The Atlas of Micrometeorites provides an INVALUABLE RESOURCE
for stardust hunters around the world.

Matthew Genge

Imperial College, London

ORIGIN STORIES

Jon Larsen revolutionized the study of micrometeorites when he became the first person to discover a micrometeorite from an urban environment. Then a new form of art emerged when he and Jan Braly Kihle created the world's first high resolution photographs of micrometeorites in colour.

Learn about the singular moment that led to Jon's groundbreaking discovery
and the phone call that kickstarted a truly epic friendship.

Jon Larsen revolutionized the study of micrometeorites when he became the first person to discover a micrometeorite from an urban environment. Then a new form of art emerged when he and Jan Braly Kihle created the world's first high resolution photographs of micrometeorites in colour.

Learn about the singular moment that led to Jon's groundbreaking discovery and the phone call that kickstarted a truly epic friendship.

I HAVE TO KNOW

I'm ready. TEACH ME.

Micrometeorites

Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle have amassed the world's most expansive collection of urban micrometeorites and they want you to follow in their footsteps.

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HALLO and welcome!

We're Jon Larsen & Jan Braly Kihle

We are world renowned micrometeorite experts here to share our cosmic art and inspire the world to become star hunters.

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